Let’s start with appearance, color, aroma and bouquet. Wine should not appear dull or murky. Nor, should it be cloudy. A clear wine should not be flashing with light reflections.When it comes to colors, white wine should have shades of yellow, gold or straw.Beaware of white wines with an amber tone, as this is an indicator ofoxidation. A Rose can be a true pink, although sometimes it is accented with deeper reds or oranges. Stay away from brown tints of amber or violet.The variety of grapes used determines the color of red wines.Cabernet and Merlot may be deep red. Younger wines typically have purple edges, while mature wines will have bronze accents.
The term aroma applies to younger wines. This is simple, what does the wine smell like? Typically, you’ll detect fruit and grape odors. It may take some practice for you to detect subtle differences. As a wine matures, it develops a fragrance when it comes in contact with the air. This fragrance is called the wine’s bouquet.
If your wine smells almost like vinegar, it ranks very low in volatile acidity. When you swish wine around in your mouth and it is refreshing, almost giving you a little “zing,”the total acidity is probably just right. A wine with a flat, almost “soapy” flavor is too low in acidity. Sharp, or sour tasting wines are generally too high in acidity.
Some wines are supposed to be sweet, other wines are supposed to be dry. If the wine you are evaluating has a sweetness to it when it should be dry, watch out! And of course, if the wine is dry when it should be sweet, be equally concerned. These are indicators that the wine’s sugar content is unsatisfactory. The term “flavor” has to do with how well the taste and the aroma of the wine work together.
The “body” of a wine is probably the most subjective term used in evaluating wine. Words like “density,” “richness,”fullness,” etc. are all used to describe a wine’s body. The type and age of the wine will largely influence the description of it’s body. Light, dry wines will typically have a lighter body, while Burgundies and young Zinandels will be more full bodied. As some wines mature, they may transition from full bodied to softer bodied. The only way to determine what “body” means to you is to taste many wines.
Aftertaste is a term that describes the taste of the wine in your mouth after you swallow it. Quality, mature wines have a lingering, clean, smooth aftertaste. Young wines typically are high in acidity due to excess tannin, and can leave an undesirable aftertaste.
So, now you’re equipped with some basic terminology used in evaluating wine. However, when all is said and “tasted”, the key point in evaluating wine is simply whether or not you enjoyed it!
By: Michael Hutchins
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